We’re guessing Camille O’Sullivan was nervouser than a long-tailed cat in a rocking chair shop before she came on stage. She once said that “if you can use pure nerves as a fuse, you can really take off like a rocket” and her performance at the Roundhouse on St Patrick’s Day was little short of incendiary.
The London-born Ireland-raised performer only began singing a little over a decade ago after a car accident rendered her hospitalised for a year. Since then, she has sung in Europe, the US and Australia with her own show and as part of the Olivier-winning cabaret troupe La Clique (the predecessor to La Soiree who have only recently finished their own shows at the same venue).
Camille (as she is mononymously known by her following) rarely sings original material. Instead, her forte lies in re-interpreting songs from the likes of Jacques Brel, Nick Cave and Tom Waits. The appropriate show-opener, Arcade Fire’s Wake Up, demonstrates her fearsome vocal range; like the subject matter of her darker song choices, her voice flies lower than the advertised cost of a Ryanair flight before filling the cavernous Roundhouse with an intensity which defies her slight frame. Wait’s All The World Is Green is a cheeky nod to the emerald-adorned audience hanging on her every word. Seriously – when was the last time the place heard the crowd angrily shush each other as they struggled to savour every syllable?
Folk star Neill MacColl – half-brother of Kirsty, son of Ewan – comes on to join Camille for a well-received rendition of his father’s famous composition Dirty Old Town before she attempts rock numbers Radiohead’s True Love Waits and Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt. Look, can we please pull the emergency handle on Hurt covers? Camille’s take was unfortunately anonymous and anaemic compared to the barely-contained rage behind Johnny Cash’s epic version or the unbridled regret shown by David Hoyle.
A cover of Nick Cave’s Ship Song is a fitting send-off as a well-satisified crowd float from their seats, some to prepare for the venue's late-night ceilidh, others off into the Camden night. Slainthe, Camille.
Camille will be returning to London in mid-May to promote her new album Changeling some more.